With more wells added daily, activists voice concerns and regulators increase inspections. By Bruce Finley – The Denver Post
PLATTEVILLE — Colorado’s wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.
At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.
But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.
This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.
State rules obligate regulators to take a collaborative approach, negotiating remedies when possible rather than cracking down. In fact, the COGCC recently declared four companies responsible for the largest number of spills to be “Outstanding Operators” and lauded them for environmental excellence.
Oil and gas companies have reported 343 new spills this year, bringing the total since August 2009 to more than 1,000 spills, state data show.